This morning, I tried to imagine a life free from sin. It was a lot harder than I expected.

White LilyMy ponderings were inspired by today’s feast day, the Immaculate Conception of Mary. According to Catholic doctrine, from the first moment of Mary’s existence, God preserved her from original sin and filled her with grace. Doctrine tells us that Mary remained sinless throughout her life.

What caused my difficulty was that I equated a sinless life with a perfect life. After all, if I never sinned, wouldn’t my life be perfect? Even if the people around me weren’t perfect, shouldn’t sinlessness protect me, so that stuff like anger or violence or greed wouldn’t impinge upon my perfect life?

Then I thought about Mary. She was sinless, yet her life was far from perfect. At one point, Mary faced the prospect of being single mom in a culture that looked down on unmarried mothers. When she was ready to give birth, she and Joseph were on the road, not with family who could help with the birth and the new baby. Her son Jesus was a great guy, but the ups and downs of his life greatly affected Mary, and she stayed with him through it all. Despite her sinlessness, Mary was one of us – a person who experienced joy and sorry, who cared for her family and neighbors, and who loved deeply.

So, maybe a sinless life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not that I have to worry about it. Sorta like water under the bridge on that one. But Mary shows me that what matters is not a sinless or a perfect life. What matters is the fullness of life—the ability to embrace my own humanity and that of others, with all its eccentricities, joys, weaknesses, and challenges.

What message does Mary have for you today? Happy Feast Day!